Xie first became fascinated with the monumental landscape paintings of the Northern Song dynasty (960–1127) in his late twenties and thirties. This work, made when the artist was in his late sixties, attests to the lasting influence of Song masters such as Fan Kuan (act. ca. 990–1030) and Li Tang (ca. 1070s–ca. 1150s), particularly in its massive mountain forms defined by emphatic, angular contours and "axe-cut" texture strokes. The imposing trees in the foreground, with their twisting trunks and partially exposed roots, also reflect a major motif of the Song pictorial tradition. Xie, however, softened the austere vigor of the Song masters by emphasizing a human presence—evident here in the prominent inclusion of dwellings and a bridge—and by tempering his forceful brushstrokes with rich ink washes. Such subtle variations in tone were achieved after a decade of experimentation with a new method of representation that prioritized the use of ink wash over line and color.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Mastering the Art of Chinese Painting: Xie Zhiliu (1910–1997)," February 2, 2010–August 1, 2010.